Comparative Analysis of Machine Learning Approaches to Classify Tumor Mutation Burden in Lung Adenocarcinoma Using Histopathology Images
Both histologic subtypes and tumor mutation burden (TMB) represent important biomarkers in lung cancer, with implications for patient prognosis and treatment decisions. Typically, TMB is evaluated by comprehensive genomic profiling but this requires use of finite tissue specimens and costly, time-consuming laboratory processes. Histologic subtype classification represents an established component of lung adenocarcinoma histopathology, but can be challenging and is associated with substantial inter-pathologist variability. Here we developed a deep learning system to both classify histologic patterns in lung adenocarcinoma and predict TMB status using de-identified Hematoxylin and Eosin (H&E) stained whole slide images. We first trained a convolutional neural network to map histologic features across whole slide images of lung cancer resection specimens. On evaluation using an external data source, this model achieved patch-level area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (AUC) of 0.78–0.98 across nine histologic features. We then integrated the output of this model with clinico-demographic data to develop an interpretable model for TMB classification. The resulting end-to-end system was evaluated on 172 held out cases from TCGA, achieving an AUC of 0.71 (95% CI 0.63–0.80). The benefit of using histologic features in predicting TMB is highlighted by the significant improvement this approach offers over using the clinical features alone (AUC of 0.63 [95% CI 0.53–0.72], p = 0.002). Furthermore, we found that our histologic subtype-based approach achieved performance similar to that of a weakly supervised approach (AUC of 0.72 [95% CI 0.64–0.80]). Together these results underscore that incorporating histologic patterns in biomarker prediction for lung cancer provides informative signals, and that interpretable approaches utilizing these patterns perform comparably with less interpretable, weakly supervised approaches.